Many folks would like to keep chickens but think they do not have enough space for them.
Today we are going to look at a few breeds that can live and thrive in a small yard.
When thinking about getting chickens for your backyard there are three main things to consider:
- Space: Each standard sized chicken needs 4 square feet of coop space and 8-10 square feet in their pen/run (more on this later).
- Noise: If you have neighbors and do not want them complaining all the time, you will need birds that are fairly quiet.
- Waste Management: What are you going to do with all the manure that your birds will generate? Standard sized birds will produce around 130lbs of wet manure each year.
Those are the three major considerations for the health and welfare of your hens, your family and neighbors. With all that in mind here are the chickens we think are most suitable for a small yard.
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The Plymouth Rock is one of America’s oldest breeds.
She is a good layer (4 large brown eggs per week) and a great backyard hen. They tolerate confinement really well but like to range if possible.
You can expect a gentle and quiet hen that is good with children and enjoys being petted – they will easily become one of the family.
She is a dual purpose hen that can also be used for meat if desired.
Plymouth Rock hens come in a variety of colors and also come in bantam size.
Buff Orpingtons are large fluffy birds that are also great layers.
They are quiet and docile so your neighbors should not complain!
These hens do well in confinement and would rather hang around the feeders than go and forage (although they do forage well enough).
One of the best things about Orpingtons is that they can tolerate a variety of climates – so you don’t have to worry too much about them getting cold. They are very gentle birds that do well with children and enjoy being picked up and cuddled.
Buffs average 4-5 large brown eggs each week – other Orpington varieties are not as prolific layers.
As with many of our selected breeds, Buff Orpingtons are also available in bantam size.
The Polish hen is more of a fun bird.
They do well in confinement, but if you let them free range you will need to keep an eye on them. Their head feathering can sometimes be a liability because they cannot see predators quickly.
If you have a very small yard you could consider the bantam variety.
Polish hens are not well known for their laying abilities although some strains lay a respectable 3 eggs each week.
They are a quirky bird, docile, friendly and a firm favorite with children. Just remember that these gentle birds frequently get picked on if there are more aggressive birds in the mix – for some reason other birds cannot seem to resist pulling out the head feathers of the Polish!
These are friendly mixed breed hens that lay different colored eggs!
A mix of either Ameraucana or the Araucana and other breeds, this lovely little hen is docile, curious and loves people.
There are standard sized birds that weigh around 4lb; there are also bantams available should you have a smaller yard. These hens have the perfect disposition for small backyards and can lay 4 eggs each week. They carry the blue egg gene so they may lay eggs anywhere from blue to pink!
Their appearance can be a mixed bag because of their parentage. They may have a single or pea comb, may have muffs and a beard, or not.
Coloring is a mixture from white to black and anything in between.
Salmon Faverolles are lovely hens that always seem to be happy. They have beards, muffs, five toes and feathered legs which add to their comical personalities.
They are very friendly and curious and do not mind being picked up and held – they are child friendly and kids seem to love them.
These hens are good for cold weather climates but do not really enjoy hot weather.
They actually are a dual purpose hen but are kept mainly for their egg laying abilities (4 light brown eggs per week). They make great mothers but are not overly broody.
Dominiques are considered to be the oldest American breed.
They are a quiet, gentle and resourceful bird that enjoy the company of their humans.
This breed is docile, tolerates confinement very well, and lays lots of eggs (around 4-5 a week).
They have a lovely barred plumage which helps them to blend in if they are out foraging.
The Dominique also has a rose comb, making them suited for colder weather although they tolerate a wide range of climates.
Unfortunately this breed remains in need of conservation so they are well worth considering for your flock.
Cochins are more of a pet bird than a working girl!
They can tolerate small spaces very well and can endure a wide variety of climates except extreme heat. In warmer climates they need somewhere to keep out of the heat as their fluffy feathers can cause them to overheat.
Cochins are another hen that likes to hang out by the feeders rather than foraging.
They do lay eggs but not prolifically (about 2 per week).
This hen is calm, docile and gentle liking nothing better than being held and cuddled – they are great with children.
The Vorwerk chicken is still relatively rare here in the US but is more popular in Europe.
It was created in Germany in the 1930s to be a good dual purpose breed. They have a lovely combination of black and buff feathering.
They are gentle, friendly, relatively calm and easy to handle making them a good breed for beginners to start with.
This hen is equally at home confined or free ranging, but if you do let them free range be aware they fly well.
Vorwerks are robust hen that will give you 3-4 white eggs each week.
Welcome to the eye candy of the chicken world!
These hens are for those who want something pretty – or pretty unusual!
They are unusual in that they are a melanistic bird, meaning their skin and organs are black.
Lots of people love them; children adore them; and some breeders keep them because they make excellent broody hens. They lay moderately well when they are not broody – you can expect around 3 eggs weekly.
When people think of bantams they usually think of them more as ornamental pets or show birds.
While many bantams do fulfill those criteria, it is also important to remember that they lay eggs.
There are plenty of people (myself included) who prefer bantam sized egg.
Our true bantams selected here all have those traits, but they are also fun little birds that love to perch on you and chatter away.
The best thing about keeping bantams is that you do not need a lot of space, or or feed!
The bearded Belgian D’Anvers is one of the oldest true bantams there is. It has been around for at least 400 years.
Due to their small size they are well suited for small yards.
They are reasonable layers putting out 3 small white eggs each week.
These birds are friendly, curious and child friendly. They enjoy perching on your shoulder or knee and will quickly become a favorite.
Barbu D’Uccles are often referred to as mille fleurs (the most popular coloring of the breed).
They are a true bantam having no standard sized counterpart.
They are delightful little birds, very friendly, talkative, and gentle, and they love to perch on you and talk to you .
Surprisingly they can lay 3-4 small eggs each week!
They will tolerate confinement very well especially if you give them some height in the pen.
All of the breeds above are suitable for small backyards and close neighbors.
If you live in an urban setting, town or village check with your local building officer to make sure you can keep chickens and if so how many.
Usually one of the biggest concerns with neighbors is the possibility of attracting rodents. Truth be known, the rodents are already there, so keep the feed in a safe secure container and clean up any leftovers when the birds have gone to bed.
As for the usual chicken noise such as the egg song, there is really not much you can do except to build away from your neighbors and perhaps put in some shrubs or fencing to deflect and absorb the noise.
Do not be afraid to try bantams. The eggs may be a bit smaller but they are just as delicious as standard eggs!
Let us know which breeds you think do well in small backyards in the comments section below…